Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant Launch Delayed: Russia

Iran's Bushehr Nuclear Plant Launch Delayed: Russia
The launch of the controversial Bushehr nuclear power plant, which is Iran's first major civilian nuclear project built by Russia, has been delayed and will not be launched this year as expected, according to a top Russian minister.

"We expect major results by the end of the year, but the launch will not take place," Russian Energy Minister Sergei Shmatko was quoted as saying by ITAR-TASS.

Earlier this year Shmatko had said the power plant, Iran's first major civilian nuclear project, would be commissioned in 2009.

"Russia is committed to its obligations to Iran. The Iranians can see how the project is progressing and they have no questions," Shmatko underscored.

Russia has pressed ahead with the Bushehr project despite Western concerns about Iran's nuclear energy programme, which the United States and its allies fear is aimed at acquiring an atomic bomb.

According to the press service of the Energy Ministry, the delay is "technical" and not linked to the controversial Iranian nuclear programme.

It is linked to the use of 30-year-old equipment originally supplied for the power plant by the German company "Siemens", before it backed out of the Bushehr project under the US pressure.

"This requires additional tests, before the reactor could be launched," RosAtom State Corporation said.

Six months ahead of the projected launch, in January 2009 Moscow had already airlifted nuclear fuel for the VVER-1000 light water reactor of the Bushehr power plant.

RosAtom said by the end of this year preparations would be completed for launching of the 1000 MWe power unit sometime in April next year.

Amid stepped up international pressure on Iran to give up its nuclear ambition, Tehran has denied it is seeking to build atomic weapons and insisted that its nuclear energy programme is peaceful in nature.

The Bushehr announcement came a day after Russian President Dmitry Medvedev said Moscow was "not completely happy" with the pace of efforts to resolve the Iranian nuclear standoff.

Even as Russia has resisted move by the US to impose crippling sanctions against Iran, Moscow has encouraged Tehran to agree on a UN-drafted uranium enrichment deal seen as a possible way out of the deadlock.

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